Ask anybody about what comes to mind when they think about Brazil, and it's likely they'll reel off a long list including great beaches, beautiful people and – with the recent World Cup still in people's minds – football. But, of course, such stereotypes do not tell the full story about this vast, diverse and increasingly influential nation.
In an attempt to broaden the conversation, brand consultancy Flamingo organised an event in London this week featuring three expert speakers: each of whom tackled a big Brazilian stereotype.
Warc subscribers can read a full report from the event, featuring all of the key statistics and campaign creative, but below are the highlights from the briefing.
Stereotype 1: An ad-obsessed nation?
Thiago de Moraes, executive creative director at AMV BBDO, talked through a stereotype about Brazil that is not held by the general public, but is held by many in the advertising industry – that the nation is very, very good at making ads.
To de Moraes, there are deep cultural reasons for the centrality of advertising – or, more broadly, marketing communications – in Brazilian life. After all, this is a nation where ad executives such as Washington Olivetto (currently chairman of McCann Brazil) and Roberto Justus (currently presenter of the Brazilian version of the Apprentice) are well-known names.
For one thing, the creative approach is also distinct in Brazil. "In the UK, ads can be a bit esoteric. Sophisticated but elitist," de Moraes added. "Everyone in Britain loves the meerkats, but it doesn't win awards."
And Brazilian agencies are winning awards hand over fist. One major recent example is skincare brand Dove's Real Beauty Sketches campaign, which came out of Ogilvy in Sao Paulo. "If Brazil wins some Lions, it's on the front page," De Moraes added. "And I'm not talking about the Brazilian version of Campaign. I'm talking the front page of the Guardian."
Stereotype 2: A nation on the beach?
To Alex Bellos, a British writer and author of 'Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life', "you can't understand Brazil without understanding the role of the beach". The centrality of the beach to Brazilian life ties into another national trait: a love of socialising and being together, rather than alone. "The European ideal is a deserted beach," he added. "Brazil's ideal beach is crowded. It feels safer that way – and it also allows you to socialise."
Similarly, social media has become a major obsession. And, with one of the big purposes of going to the beach to see and be seen, it's no surprise that photo-sharing app Instagram is big news in Brazil. eMarketer statistics from February 2014 suggest that around seven in ten of Brazilian internet users have an account, equivalent to over 75m users.
Stereotype 3: A football-obsessed nation?
Fernando Duarte, a sports journalist, discussed the societal implications of the recent World Cup – a success for Brazil off the pitch, but a disaster on it, with the Seleção suffering a historic 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi final.
With sensitivities over foreign media running high ahead of the event, a Financial Times article declaring that Brazil had "already won" the World Cup (with its "nice" people, "first-rate" beaches and cities that "feel safe") made front-page news. "That was so important to us," Duarte added. "We felt like we pulled it off."
Even the semi final wasn't too traumatic, thanks again to social media. Memes cropped up on Twitter even as the match was going on, with Brazil's avid social networkers taking some of the sting out of the loss by making jokes.
ALO, tudo bem? Domingo to livre pro churrasco. pic.twitter.com/65hVmJhiTv— O Bairrista (@O_Bairrista) July 8, 2014
"Hi, how are you? We're free for the barbeque on Sunday"
That said, the World Cup's future legacy remains in doubt – specifically over whether the tournament's $13bn budget will have lasting benefits. "They failed to deliver the promised changes. The government promised a lot of changes – and failed," Duarte added. "Terminal 1 in Rio airport is still a pigsty! So we feel there's been a gain in 'brand Brazil', but we're not sure where it's going to lead.
"There's mixed feelings."